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Hardware Engineer vs. Electrical Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you’re interested in a career in engineering, you may be wondering what the difference is between a hardware engineer and an electrical engineer. Both roles are important in the engineering field, but they have different focuses. In this article, we’ll discuss the similarities and differences between these two job titles, and we’ll provide some tips on how to choose the right career path for you.

What is a Hardware Engineer?

Hardware Engineers design, develop and test physical components for electronic devices and systems. They work with circuit boards, microprocessors and other electronic equipment to ensure it functions properly. Hardware Engineers may also be responsible for supervising the manufacturing process of these components to ensure they meet quality standards. They often collaborate with other engineers, designers and technicians during the product development process. Hardware Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a related field.

What is an Electrical Engineer?

Electrical Engineers design, develop and oversee the production of electrical equipment, such as generators, motors and radar and navigation systems. They also work on the electrical systems of buildings, cars and airplanes. Electrical Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. They use their knowledge of physics and mathematics to solve problems. Electrical Engineers typically work in offices, but they may also visit worksites to observe equipment or solve problems.

Hardware Engineer vs. Electrical Engineer

Here are the main differences between a hardware engineer and an electrical engineer.

Job Duties

Electrical and hardware engineers fulfill different roles in the engineering process. Electrical engineers research, design and develop new products that require electrical components. They then test these products to ensure they function correctly and safely. Hardware engineers create detailed plans for the manufacturing of products developed by other engineers. They also oversee production processes and troubleshoot issues with manufactured products. Other duties include creating repair guides for products and training staff on how to use engineered products.

Job Requirements

Both hardware engineers and electrical engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering to enter the field. However, many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree or higher. These programs typically take four to five years to complete and include coursework in physics, calculus and other math-related subjects. Students also learn about electronics, circuits and other topics that are relevant to their future career.

In addition to their education, both hardware engineers and electrical engineers must obtain licensure from their state before they can start working. To do this, they must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. After passing this exam, engineers can work as interns for four years before taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, which allows them to become licensed professional engineers.

Work Environment

Electrical and hardware engineers both work in a variety of environments. Electrical engineers may work in laboratories, where they test new products to ensure that they meet safety standards. They also may work in offices, where they collaborate with other electrical engineers on projects. Hardware engineers often work in manufacturing facilities, where they oversee the production of new products. However, some hardware engineers work for companies that design and build prototypes of new products.


Both hardware engineers and electrical engineers use technical skills to perform their job, including circuit design, advanced mathematics, linear systems and analysis and electrical schematics. An electrician also needs technical knowledge, but they need to know more basic electrical information about how systems work. Both of these professionals need to have the ability to follow safety protocols because they are often working with dangerous materials.

While an electrical engineer uses communication skills when they are creating reports of their research, corresponding with other engineers and colleagues and developing blueprints for their products, they are not necessarily going to be interacting with customers directly. An electrician is going to need interpersonal skills because they will most likely be interacting with people on a daily basis while they assist customers with solving electrical issues.


Electrical engineers earn an average salary of $94,718 per year, while hardware engineers earn an average salary of $100,944 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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